The Queen in Parliament has asked us to love our neighbours.
Actually, Britain isn’t bad at this. At Coops UK recently, we took a look at the state of neighbourliness in Britain in a report called ‘Co-operative Streets’.
Problem neighbours, anti-social behaviour and all manner of disputes are a regular media feature as they do make good stories. “My nan” as one young person told me recently “has taken all her four neighbours to court and she’ll tell everyone about it.” It is easy to dub people as ‘neighbours from hell’ without considering what that also says about where you live.
Yes, we found, we are less neighbourly than a generation ago. But the number of neighbours willing to help out is no less than three decades ago. And there are new ways to be a good neighbour. While the number of people looking after neighbours’ pets or plants has halved over thirty years, over thirty million people now take in parcels for their neighbour.
In Essex, which doesn’t have the best reputation for neighbourliness, the wonderful Chelmsford Star Co-operative has printed cards for their members to introduce themselves to their neighbours. Practical, helpful, co-operative.
Across the UK, there are at least twenty one million conversations taking place each day between neighbours. Fourteen million people drop round for a chat with their neighbour. One in four people keep a spare key with the neighbours. We know the name on average of seven people who live in our direct neighbourhood – with women knowing one more on average than men.
I don’t know if the Queen knows more or less neighbours – after all, she has a few.
And don’t forget that your neighbour is supposed to love you too. As Mae West commented, “love thy neighbour… and if he happens to be tall, debonair and devastating, it will be that much easier.”